Sunday, July 22, 2012

Ample food

 Our food supply system is now entirely global. Agricultural products are globally intertwined. When the price of corn goes up, other grains often follow. Everything is tied together. Food supply has been left at the mercy of huge international but volatile food markets.

In 2008, corn spiked at $287 a ton; last week, spurred on by drought conditions in the American Midwest, the futures price went to $340 a ton. In 2008, soyabeans hit $554 a ton; last week, a ton was costing just shy of $660. For the moment, the prices of the primary food security crops – wheat and rice – remain down on historic highs, but there are fears that if the corn harvest suffers further, then prices in wheat and rice will follow.

These are not abstract issues for money men and markets. They affect people at the bottom of the economic heap. Right now, for example, there is an acute food deficit problem in Yemen. People are starving in their millions. Children are dying. The problem is not a lack of food. There is food in the country. It is that food prices have risen so high that people cannot afford to feed themselves.

Meantime, dairy farmers protest about their falling prices for milk due to the global over-supply. The price of milk is dependent on the European market price for its cream component and it's the value of that which has collapsed. In June of 2011, it was £1,800 a tonne. Now it's just over £1,000 a tonne.

The need to produce 70% more food by 2050 is no longer supported by evidence. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation who now say the figure should be a maximum of 60%. Secondly, this figure is only one possible scenario, and is based on 'business as usual'. If we tackle all the inherent problems of the food system, such as waste, consumption and distribution, the UN says we actually won't need to produce any more food. There's already enough food to feed 8 billion people.

Source 1
Source 2

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